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So Cal Speed Shop Stakeout—Touring Some of the Great California Hot Rod Locations

Posted By: Evan J. Smith
So Cal Speed Shop Stakeout—Touring Some of the Great California Hot Rod Locations
By Joe Grippo
Photography by the author
Editor’s note: Joe Grippo is a hardcore enthusiast and racer, who loves drag racing and hot rod nostalgia. Along with his wife Stacey and his brother Dan (who is a regular contributor to, Joe travels the country hitting up fun automotive and racing events. When not on the road, he can be found racing his 10-second 1970 Mustang. 
Northeast winters can be cold and harsh, so given the chance, we escaped the frozen zone and jumped a flight to sunny Southern California—home hot rods and In-N-Out Burgers. The latter was our first stop after securing our rental, then we spent our week soaking up the warm sun, palm trees and viewing the snowcapped San Gabriel Mountains, while checking out a variety of hot rod shops turning out killer rides and bitchin’ parts for a seemingly endless line of customers.
First stop was down in Orange, Ca. to see my buddy Jimmy White, owner of Circle City Hot Rods. Jimmy and his crew were knee-deep in ’32 Ford and Model ‘A’ builds and had just started the transformation of a 1968 Mustang from NHRA Stocker to a road-going street machine. Jimmy is a Mustang guy, his personal rides include a Coyote-powered Fox and a sweet, patina-covered early coupe with a tidy small block. Next, we headed to Old Anvil Speed Shop, where another friend, renowned artist Jeff Allison, gave us a tour of the projects they had coming together. Lots of variety at Old Anvil, including trucks, a gasser-style international pick-up, a slammed Uni-Body Ford F100 and Pro Street is alive and well. Old Anvil had two Nova’s with the tubbed treatment, both getting prepped for display at the Grand National Roadster Show.
Everyone knows about Moon Equipment, right? You have certainly seen the Moon Discs and Tanks on everything from hot rods, customs to Bonneville Salt Flat racers. Mooneyes is in Santa Fe Springs, with a retail store, a cool collection of cars and vintage stuff, and a well outfitted fab shop. We showed up unannounced and were told to make ourselves at home and had free run of the joint. Watching these guys welding up tanks and giving parts the hand finishing touches was cool. Just standing in the spot that Carroll Shelby and Dean Moon painted the original Cobra was heavy stuff. If you don’t know that story look it up.
The next day was pre-war Ford time. We trucked over to San Dimas for a stop at The Early Ford Store. Located in the historic District, the building itself could tell stories, as it was one of the earliest Ford sales agencies in California. It now houses an outrageous collection of everything Henry Ford produced, plus a healthy dose of vintage speed parts from the pioneers of hot rodding. The place seems like a museum, but it’s all for sale. Across town was the famed So-Cal Speed Shop, which offers all the latest goodies to put together the cool traditionally styled hot rod of your dreams. With the Grand National Roadster Show looming the following weekend, So Cal hosted an Open House. They have a storage facility out back which was full of hot rod roadsters, coupes, and sedans. A front engine dragster and a wild twin engine go-kart rounded out the scene.
Another day and another few shop; this time went ventured out to a rather seedy part of Pomona, Ca. to check out the Kennedy Brothers Bomb Factory. It was tough to find, but worth the effort. Joe and Jay Kennedy basically turned their shop into giant Swap Meet, offering much of their inventory for sale. Vintage Ford parts, Hemi stuff, complete cars and projects could be had. Muscle, Rods, and race cars, what more do you need? It was then on to Upland, for the Stoker’s Hot Rod Factory GNRS Open House. Basically, the opposite of Kennedy Bros, Stoker’s was home to some of the tidiest shops around, turning out some of the cleanest, detail-oriented machines I’ve ever seen. Mostly early Ford centric but there was a killer big block ‘Vette and an LS powered Riviera project coming together. Good stuff.
Rounding out our week of shop tours was a stop at the legendary Blair’s Speed Shop in Pasadena. Once again, we just rolled up and knocked on the door, owner Phil Lukens welcomed us east coast tourists with open arms and gave us the “dime tour.” Possibly the oldest continuously operating speed shop in existence, Blair’s is going strong moving parts and turning out a variety of engines for customers. It was a great experience talking to Phil and hearing stories of the old days about his legendary blown alcohol Fiat Altered. Last stop was the Saturday Night GNRS Party at Walden’s Speed Shop. Metal fab and trick hot rods are the specialty at Walden’s as evidenced by the wild machines and tools spread throughout the building. A live band played all night with crowds of folks eating from the Taco Truck and checking out the scene. It was an awesome way to end to a fun filled week!
It's safe to say Hot Rodding is alive and well, we saw it firsthand. But unfortunately for me it’s back to the subfreezing east coast weather.

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